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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2004

Debbora Battaglia, Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

Biography

Debbora Battaglia is the author of On the Bones of the Serpent: Person, Memory, and Mortality in Sabarl Island Society (University of Chicago Press) and the editor of Rhetorics of Self-Making (University of California Press), and E.T. Culture: Anthropology in Outerspaces (in press, Duke University Press). She is currently working on Galaxies of Discourse: Toward an Anthropological Model of Visits. Professor Battaglia has also published numerous scholarly articles, including, most recently, 'Multiplicities: An Anthropologist's Thoughts on Replicants and Clones in Popular Films,' in the journal Critical Inquiry, and 'Toward an Ethics of the Open Subject: Writing Culture 'In Good Conscience',' in Henrietta Moore, ed. Anthropological Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity Press). Professor Battaglia, who received her doctorate from Cambridge University in the field of social anthropology, teaches courses in cultural identities and differences, discourses of the sacred, visualizing culture, peoples of the South Pacific, and introductory anthropology. She has conducted anthropological fieldwork in the islands off the New Guinea coast and urban fieldwork in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. She has also worked in Quebec Province, the East Coast of the U.S., and on the Internet with a new religious movement, focusing on faith in science as religion. Her honors include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. A frequent presenter and keynote speaker at national and international conferences and academic institutions, she has served as a member of the editorial board of American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Material Culture, and Anthropological Quarterly. She has also served on National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship panels and on Ph.D. external review committees. In addition to teaching at Mount Holyoke, she has taught courses at the University of East Anglia and Stanford University.

Abstract

A futurology of science and religion: immortality re-imagined

How do alternative science religious communities imagine human life after apocalypse? What can we learn from their sometimes dangerous, sometimes enlightening visions? And how does mainstream science and bioethical debate figure in the futurology of such religions? Focusing on the Raelian Movement and its neo-Creationist faith in human reproductive cloning, this paper opens a window onto the discursive universe and social consequences of taking Science as God. Specifically, it calls for critical engagement of technoscience spirituality – defined as the effect of 'hard faith' in social networking potential of new reproductive technologies – for examining an 'ethics of self' in modernity. It also calls for recognition of the media as integral to technoscientific imaginaries, and considers how mediatization shapes, and is shaped by, public culture. In this light, social personhood appears as a project of situated creativity, and of hoping against hope in an age of insecurity. Finally, the paper argues that the ethnography of technoscience 'faith-sites,' taken as a valuable supplement to existing disciplinary knowledge of the faith-science relationship might, on the one hand, productively destabilize prior knowledge, and on the other hand, offer a model of and for more densely articulated interdisciplinary engagement.